Giving Compass' Take:

• Thomas Gegenhuber reports that Germany's government-hosted #WeVsVirus hackathon brought people together to address coronavirus. 

• Could you support a similar effort in your community? What issues related to coronavirus can be addressed with this method? 

• Learn about the potential of open source technology for philanthropy

The inability of societal institutions to cope with a crisis warrants experimenting with a social innovation approach that rapidly brings together government, civil society, and the private sector. When civilian tech companies and organizations recently proposed an online hackathon to find solutions to the COVID-19 crisis, German politicians seized the opportunity and, within days, launched Germany’s first government-hosted crisis hackathon: #WeVsVirus, or #WirVsVirus in German. The effort not only produced viable and useful technical solutions, but also empowered thousands of participants to take action, learn, and create alongside others.

Hackathons are a novel organizing practice that have proven their worth in many different fields. They provide a dynamic, flexible setting, based largely on self-organization, in which creativity can flourish. Participants typically meet up in a physical space, form teams, and focus on solving a specific technical problem for a set amount of time. Hackathons are also a tool for driving open social innovation. In a governmental context, this means creating solutions to social challenges by opening up development to people and organizations outside government. Local governments like the City of Toronto, NASA, NSF, and the United Nations have all used hackathons to address social problems.

What made the #WeVsVirus hackathon unique was its unprecedented urgency and scale. Though guidelines usually recommend three months preparation time, #WeVsVirus came together in just four days, and organizers were overwhelmed by public interest in the event: A total of 42,968 people signed up and 26,581 participated, making it the world’s largest hackathon to date.

Read the full article about the #WeVsVirus hackathon by Thomas Gegenhuber at Stanford Social Innovation Review.